Top 10 Things Employees Value

Do you need employees? Companies everywhere are starving for them.

Lately, I haven’t spoken to a business owner or manager in our industry that isn’t looking for at least one more new hire to fill out their roster. For some shops, they are down by about a dozen employees.

Here’s the problem that every business and every industry is facing: COVID taught employees that businesses don’t value them. Like it or not, that’s the truth.

When times got tough, business leaders jettisoned their workforce to save money. Most had to. But that isn’t what this article is about.

Those coveted workers that everyone wants, learned that they can be choosy. They can hold out for more pay. Or health benefits. Better working conditions. Maybe just a better job where they feel valued. Or a place where they can contribute the most.

There is a recent McKinsey & Co study that highlights what prospective employees want in a new job currently. Read that article here.

Listed below are ten things that you should be thinking about if you are trying to staff up.

These are what employees currently value based on the study.

Work-Life Balance

The biggest lesson that COVID taught the global workforce is that enduring a commute back and forth to the office didn’t matter.

People everywhere adopted a new way to work. From home. In an RV traveling like a nomad. At the beach. In weird hours.

What mattered more than anything was performance. Not actually “where” the work was being performed. People discovered that they liked hanging out more with their family or walking their dog at lunch.

For some jobs, you have to be present where the work actually is being performed, as you can’t screen print or embroider that shirt from your kitchen table, or beach house, or park trail.

However, there are plenty of positions such as sales, design, accounting, social media, program management, or customer service that doesn’t really require you to be there.

For your open positions in your company, can someone work remotely? Could you recruit a better artist or accountant that lives three time zones away? What matters to you more, their contribution or them occupying a desk at your address? Think about it.

Care For Family

One of the biggest hurdles facing many families is in caring for their children. With the advent of COVID, many daycare facilities have either closed or have jacked up the prices so much that they are not affordable to many families.

If daycare costs as much as you are making in your job, it is senseless to have a zero-sum gain with your effort.

Are you in a position with your space and oversight to offer daycare in your place of business? Granted, it is not for everyone.

If you can’t do it in your business, could you work out a better rate or help augment the daycare fees for your staff that needs it?

Also in this category is health insurance. These days that is on the top of everyone’s minds. Can you help protect your staff and their families with a plan? What makes sense for your shop?

What options do you have?

Feel Engaged At Work

For many people, getting that forced break from their previous job made many workers evaluate what they are doing with their time.

People want to know that the work that they do is valued and is contributing to a bigger overall picture. Workers are asking themselves, “Do I matter here?”

“Am I being appreciated for what I do?”

If your company leaders are jerks, don’t be surprised if you can’t keep staff. Everyone wants to know that the effort that they put in every day matters. That their ideas are being heard, and that someone is listening.

Got problems with some new hires that suddenly don’t show up after lunch one day?

What was the experience like for them? Were they fully welcomed and made to feel special? Was there an onboarding process and a professionally developed training program?

Now, more than ever, there has to be alignment with the company and the worker. What are you doing at your shop to generate this and bring it to the forefront daily?

Manageable Workload

Another point to make is that the workload that is shouldered upon the staff is equal to the level of the employee.

You can’t bury people in work these days and expect people to stick around. There are too many other options available, and everyone knows it.

People want to work. They want to be challenged. Having a rewarding and demanding job is satisfying and often fun.

But the thrill is gone when it is a never ending stream of eighty hour weeks, forced overtime, and unrelenting pressure.

Do your workers have the right tools, time, and training to complete the tasks that they are given? What is it like to work in your company?

Show that. People are attracted to professional cultures and an environment of respect and next level awesomeness.

Flexible Work Schedule

One thing that is popping up more is the ability to hire people that have other things going on their lives.

Maybe the worker is a college student and is looking for a fun job while they are in school. Bonus if they can earn knowledge in their field of study.

Older, seasoned workers may want to get out of the house and find something that is interesting, where their experience can knowledge can contribute to the success of the business.

There are also what I call, “Mom jobs,” where a professional doesn’t want to work forty hours a week, they just want to do something while the kids are in school.

Do you have room for these people on your staff? Because they are looking to contribute somewhere. How flexible are you with when someone works? Of course this may not work in all positions in your business, but for a few, it could solve many employee staffing issues.

Sense of Belonging

When you recruit new employees are you looking for other people that are similar to you or the culture of your shop? Do you have sense of pride and a tribe mentality?

As Seth Godin puts it, “People like us do things like this.”

This shows up in shops that cater to the music industry having staff members that are also musicians. Firms that handle cross fit or athletic wear seem to have more fitness minded staff members.

On company surveys, many of the top shops have told me that when asked about this topic, their employees report that it is the “sense of family” at work that attracts and keeps them at the shop. They don’t want to let family down.

How would you describe your company and your tribe of employees?

At the first Shirt Lab Live event my friend Jay Busselle described this as “Your vibe attracts your tribe.” He was talking about sales, but I think that this carries over to employees as well.

How would you describe your business vibe? Do you think that the description you have aligns with the rest of your staff?

How are you using that in your employee recruiting?

Team Mindfulness and Trust

Think about your shop for a moment. Do you feel that you have a cadre of staff members that truly help each other succeed and be the best that they can be?

Or, do you have a crew that is just there for a paycheck.

As they say, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” That sense of trust that someone has your back and won’t let you down is a powerful factor in a successful business.

Companies that I know that have this don’t have problems recruiting new employees, because their employees are doing that for them. A-team type players want other A-team type players.

This is harder to build, as it requires effort and dedication to building that type of company culture.

What are you doing about this in your shop?

Valued by the Organization

In any given group, there are always people that don’t get along. There are people that become best friends. Most folks are somewhere in the middle.

But regardless of someone’s personal feelings about another co-worker, there has to be a sense that the employee is valued by the company. That their contribution is part of the overall total of the success of the business.

This sense of being valued can be overlooked in this industry if you are not careful. Lots of attention and praise can be bestowed upon the sales team, artist, or lead operator.

Where are the kudos for that guy in the screen room or the ladies on the embroidery trimming table? When was the last time that the crew in receiving or shipping was publicly thanked for the stress that they shoulder every day?

This is where great leadership in an organization helps foster that sense of encouragement and employee value in how they manage the company.

Valued by Their Manager

In the classic song by Johnny Paycheck, he sings “Take this job and shove it / I ain’t workin’ here no more.”

The song is about a man quitting his job because of the disrespect and under appreciation shown to him by his manager.

More people quit their jobs because of the jerk they work for than for any other reason. If you can’t keep employees working for you in your business, take a hard look at how their direct supervisor or manager operates.

People want to feel valued. Is your leadership communicating this with their words and actions?

What can you do to be better?

Potential for Advancement

People want to know how to get to the next level in their job. Do you have this mapped out for the positions in your company?

What do people need to do to get a raise? Is it just some arbitrary decision by their boss, or is their a written document that spells it out with the criteria listed?

Selling a dead end job is tough.

Shops that sell a brighter future are more attractive. Can you illustrate to a potential hire the path that they can take for advancement? Do you have training and assistance to help them get to the magical next level?

That’s what you talk about. Or better yet, have real employees offer their testimonials of how it worked for them.

“I started here doing this, and now I’ve been trained and I’m doing that.”

Let’s face it, people don’t understand this industry from an outsider perspective. But if you can highlight success stories, you can demonstrate that they can grow. That’s much more attractive to people seeking jobs.


“The healthiest competition occurs when average people win by putting in above average effort.” – Colin Powell

“Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.” – Colin Powell

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.” – Colin Powell



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